All CHA policy changes are published in the agency's administrative plan at www.chahousing.org.
Section 8 tenants with the Chattanooga Housing Authority will be allowed only one chance to repay money owed because of fraud.
Those caught twice in fraud will lose their housing vouchers, regardless of the amount owed, CHA officials said.
"We've given people the benefit of the doubt when we give them one opportunity, if it was a mistake or even if they intended to do it," CHA board member Connie O'Neal said.
The CHA has investigated about 900 cases of voucher fraud since 2004 and about $1 million has been lost, officials said. A very small portion of that has been recovered through criminal or civil courts, said Lt. Jennifer Ware, CHA's fraud investigator for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8.
CHA board members voted this month to implement the policy change to prevent fraud, one of several changes passed to crack down on fraud and to promote safety and uniformity among all housing sites and properties involving CHA.
Other changes include forbidding trampolines on public housing sites and reducing the number of eviction notices from four to two.
Low-income housing advocate and Westside Community Association member Gloria Griffith said people don't always report all of their income -- one type of fraud -- because even with their paycheck and government assistance money, they're still struggling to make ends meet.
"There are a lot of rules in the system that work against poor people," she said. "Sometimes they're juggling so many inefficiencies that they still can't make ends meet."
But O'Neal said "rules are rules."
"When people break those rules, they take opportunity from people who are more needy than they are, and that is not what we want to do," she said.
Last week, the housing agency held a lottery and selected 75 people who are eligible to receive vouchers if they pass background checks and income guidelines. However, about 5,000 people are still on the waiting list.
Some Housing Choice Voucher recipients were allowed to enter into more than one payment agreement to take care of fraudulent debt because there was no policy in place restricting it until now, said Housing Choice Voucher Director Tammi Reeves, who requested the policy change.
The request to change the policy comes almost two months after CHA implemented another change requiring public housing applicants to work for at least one year before they can use their job to move themselves up on the housing preference list. The policy change was necessary, CHA officials said, because a few housing tenants got jobs to qualify for the housing preference, then quit after getting into a housing unit.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...